Flight of the Phoenix on DVD
When the best thing about a movie is the fact that it has a plane
in it, it really says something about the quality of the film.
Its a routine flight for Frank Towns (Dennis Quaid) and his
copilot AJ (Tyrese Gibson). All they have to do is fly to the middle of nowhere
and pick up a bunch of oil well workers, then fly them back. Seems simple
But things begin to go awry when Frank discovers theres an
extra passenger, in the form of Elliot (Giovanni Ribisi). Elliot is a traveler
who just showed up one day and never left. Now the plane is overweight and
sluggish, and then they encounter a nasty sandstorm. In the end, they crash
into the barren Gobi desert. The poor plane is beyond repair, and theres
only enough food and water for 30 days (its lovely how such things are
always a nice round number in movies).
Its not long before the stranded crew and passengers start
to get at each others throats, blaming everyone but themselves for the
situation. Eventually, though, they realize theyll never get out of there
if they sit and whine for 30 days. Enter Elliot, who reveals himself to be a
designer of aircraft, claiming they should be able to construct a new airplane
from the wreckage of the original. Reluctantly everyone agrees, and we have the
basis for a majority of the film.
The poor unfortunate souls must fight hunger, extreme dehydration,
a dangerous band of nomads, and worst of all each other, if theyre to
survive long enough to get home.
Okay, heres the thing: Flight of the Phoenix sucks.
Its badly written, moderately directed, and the acting is not a lick
better than it needs to be. The script was written by Scott Frank and Edward
Burns, both of whom are known for witty dialogue, and the former has written
some damn fine movies (like Minority Report
and Get Shorty). How they managed to botch
this one up is beyond us. Bright and early, they even manage to throw in some
subtle anti-capitalist quips (How much do you think it would cost for
them to send out a rescue party?).
Every line, every character, and every situation in Flight of the
Phoenix is lifted from some other, probably better, movie. Theres not an
ounce of originality, and thats not even taking into account that this is
After movies like Cold Creek Manor and
The Day After Tomorrow, Dennis Quaid
seems to be doing everything he can to ruin his career. A once promising actor,
he now likes to take roles in small, crappy movies, or big crappy movies in
which the actors are insignificant. Giovanni Ribisi is the only saving grace,
being sufficiently mysterious about every aspect of his character. The rest of
the cast only seems there because somebody had to take the roles.
But maybe were being too harsh. After all, the movie does
have a plane in it. So once it crashes, hit the stop button and think fondly of
the entire experience. Then never speak of it again.
As a DVD, the only scene you really need to examine is the plane
crash. The movie is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen; overall color is
pretty good, and for the most part detail is as well. But some of the wider
shots feature endless dunes of sand, and its here that you notice little
imperfections like grain (and not grains of sand, mind you!). Most of the time,
the color manages to hide it (or it was transferred better in some shots), and
to be fair we only noticed it on the 57 TV, not the 27.
The audio is smashing, however, with strong winds whizzing past
you in all directions, things crashing here and there and everywhere, and the
screams of hapless victims echoing through the room. Its available in
both Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 tracks.
The Phoenix Diaries is a 40+ minute making-of
documentary about the rigors (riggers?) of working in the desert. The best part
has to be director John Moore getting more than a little agitated on numerous
occasions, but overall its a well-produced piece with plenty of info and
There are four deleted/extended scenes, none of which would have
really added anything to the film, but none of them are too bad on their own.
Finally, John Moore, production designer Patrick Lumb, and producers John Davis
and Wyck Godfrey provide an audio commentary. Theyre slow starters, but
once they get into things it picks up a bit. Its pretty standard stuff,
discussing the production, casting, and special effects.
Flight of the Phoenix, from 20th Century Fox Home
113 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 enhanced,
Dolby Digital & dts 5.1
Starring Dennis Quaid, Giovanni Ribisi, Tyrese
Gibson, Miranda Otto, Hugh Laurie
Produced by John Davis, William Aldrich,
Wyck Godfrey, T. Alex Blum
Screenplay by Scott Frank and Edward Burns
Directed by John Moore
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